News thread political tangent

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Maui
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News thread political tangent

Post by Maui »

IntLibber wrote: I'm experienced in politics as an activist and election official (and not a republican), so I know how this works (I've also worked as an energy analyst, so I know the energy industry pretty well). Claims that the "problem of nuclear waste" needs to be solved are disengenuous when the "problem" has been solved for decades but anti-nukers have stymied every attempt at the solutions:
Thanks for your insight-- you seem to know a lot more about the issue than I do. Here's the thing-- I think a great majority of what's done in Washington is disengenuous. I think Obama is better than most in this regard, but still far from perfect. But I still don't think it fair to apply a blanket "no drill, no nukes" label on the guy just because he's a Democrat.
a) theyve tried obstructing the Yucca Mountain storage site, the place is fine, secure, geologically stable.

b) the solution other nuclear nations use, in order to reduce their waste tonnage by 90%+ is using breeder reactors to reprocess expended fuel rods to regenerate their isotopes. it works fine, the left doesnt want us to implement it cause it would force the anti-nukers to get real jobs.
And Obama does oppose the Yucca mountain site. I disagree with him on that. But at the same time he's not asking to take the money away from the problem as a whole, but redirect it to explore other solutions (though he's admitedly short on specifics). Perhaps he is just trying to feign support while ensuring a real solution is never found, but I think its extremely premature to convict him of that charge. I think a healthy dose of skeptism is warranted at this point, nothing more.
a) wind: usable capacity is typically only a few percent of installed capacity due to the unreliability of winds to supply when needed. tree huggers locally oppose what they espouse nationally (see the Kennedy opposition to the windfarm proposals for offshore of cape cod and nantucket) with NIMBY attitudes.
The widely quoted value is 20% cap for wind power. Even the DOE uses that figure. I'd be willing to read arguments to the contrary, but I think "a few percent" is really low-balling it.

Also, if fuel cells or other markets for hydrogen develop, hydrogen production could be good way to utilize wind power during times of high generation and lessen the fluctuation of avaliable power on the grid.

I think its disgusting Kennedy opposed the cade cod farm.
b) hydro: the US is built out for hydro, and the tree huggers have been getting existing dams destroyed to restore
habitat, they want even the biggest dams gone like the grand coulee and the hoover.
I don't think hydro is a good option.
c) solar power: generates LOTS of toxic waste manufacturing solar cells, low ROI
Cost-wise, I think thin-film solar is changing the game. Do you have good reason to think otherwise? Waste-wise, I know thin-film does still have problems. But I'm sure there are ways to minimize it and think it should be worth the trade-off here.
d) biofuel: actually causes MORE harm to the environment than drilling for oil, a LOT more. increases soil erosion, nitrate pollution in rivers, deforestation, increases food prices resulting in rising poverty rates globally.
As things are currently, I completely agree. Though I do think cellulosic tech (assuming it pans out) changes the game. Maybe we have to spread nitrates across the high-plains to keep switchgrass growing in the long term, but I think its worth it. Combined with wind and solar, I think its very realistic that we can take a huge dent out of our energy needs.
Last edited by Maui on Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Chuck Connors
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Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:23 pm

Re: News thread political tangent

Post by Chuck Connors »

IntLibber wrote: d) biofuel: actually causes MORE harm to the environment than drilling for oil, a LOT more. increases soil erosion, nitrate pollution in rivers, deforestation, increases food prices resulting in rising poverty rates globally.
I hate to pop this balloon, but the negative comments on biofuels make little sense. Are you arguing that farming should only be used for food production alone? Please explain to us farmers why we would not want to farm for biofuels (as well as for food) if the money is decent? Is it your job...or the governments to decide what (or why) someone decides to farm?

I’ve never farmed for biofuels, but if there was the opportunity…would I do it? Sure, if the money was good. I have not understood the argument that farming for biofuels has increased food prices- In my mind this is a myth. If (like Brazil) America was able to show that biofuel production had a significant impact on energy independence and therefore oil prices…would we be having this argument? I think not. Technology may still save the day here (switchgrass, cellulosic ethanol, etc).

The reason for higher food prices is:
1) higher energy costs
2) America returning to the dinner table with staple goods because of higher energy costs. This has increased demand and the prices of said goods to go with it.

It is for these reasons people are paying a higher price...not because of the choice farmers made with growing a crop of corn.

On many of your other arguments I cannot disagree, except on solar- I would have to go with Maui on this one. Being pro-nuke isn’t necessarily popular, but aside from ‘Polywell’ :wink: it should be at the forefront of any drive for energy independence.

olivier
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Location: Cherbourg, France

Post by olivier »

IntLibby wrote:b) the solution other nuclear nations use, in order to reduce their waste tonnage by 90%+ is using breeder reactors to reprocess expended fuel rods to regenerate their isotopes. it works fine, the left doesnt want us to implement it cause it would force the anti-nukers to get real jobs.
If I may just nuance a bit :
Few among nuclear nations actually use reprocessing to produce energy: UK, France, Japan, Russia and, to a lesser extent, India.
Reprocessing was historically designed for the production of military plutonium. This is what I call reprocessing's original sin and what makes it hard to sell to the public even today.
Even fewer nations, if any, are actually using breeder reactors at an industrial scale.
In practice, the recycled plutonium is reused once in PWRs, mixed with fresh uranium (MOX fuel), while the recycled uranium is not reused and simply stored for future use. The point is the accumulation in spent fuel of even (non fissile) isotopes resulting from nuclear reactions (e.g. U236, Pu238 and 240), which make it difficult, although feasible, to reenrich reprocessed uranium. So very little is actually reused, as it is today.
Despite all these nuances, I still consider reprocessing very useful. Why then? Not from a waste management perspective, but from a natural resource use perspective. The logic is to build reprocessing facilities first, then breeders which will need many recycle actinides to get started. It is the only option which avoids wasting 90-95% of natural actinides reserves, as today's PWRs and BWRs do, which is not acceptable from a sustainable development perspective (if the concept still means anything to anyone).
Last edited by olivier on Wed Oct 01, 2008 8:36 am, edited 4 times in total.

Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

The problem with bio fuels is that you need a lot (read A LOT) of farmland to supply a country like the US with the fuel that it uses.
Further, biofuel is not quite as ecological as is widely believed and then there is the social economic problem that many, especially poor countries turn their farming for food to farming for fuel, leaving their population with insufficient food supplies.
If the world population keeps exploding like this, we will soon need any available farmland anyway.
I dont see anything wrong with nuclear power or reprocessing of nuclear fuels. Most of the objections and politically and ideologically motivated and not based on actual facts.

classicpenny
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by classicpenny »

Chuck Connors wrote:
IntLibber wrote: d) biofuel: actually causes MORE harm to the environment than drilling for oil, a LOT more. increases soil erosion, nitrate pollution in rivers, deforestation, increases food prices resulting in rising poverty rates globally.
I hate to pop this balloon, but the negative comments on biofuels make little sense. Are you arguing that farming should only be used for food production alone? Please explain to us farmers why we would not want to farm for biofuels (as well as for food) if the money is decent? Is it your job...or the governments to decide what (or why) someone decides to farm? I’ve never farmed for biofuels, but if there was the opportunity…would I do it? Sure, if the money was good. I have not understood the argument that farming for biofuels has increased food prices- In my mind this is a myth. If (like Brazil) America was able to show that biofuel production had a significant impact on energy independence and therefore oil prices…would we be having this argument? I think not. Technology may still save the day here (switchgrass, cellulosic ethanol, etc). The reason for higher food prices is:
1) higher energy costs
2) America returning to the dinner table with staple goods because of higher energy costs. This has increased demand and the prices of said goods to go with it.
It is for these reasons people are paying a higher price...not because of the choice farmers made with growing a crop of corn.
I understand that corn ethanol is profitable for farmers ONLY because of massive government price supports, so the government has already decided what a lot of farmers are going to grow - in addition, I have seen more than one article suggesting that contrary to your own opinion, growing corn for ethanol has most definitely contributed to rising food prices.

I also understand that when all of the energy costs of growing corn for ethanol are taken into consideration, the energy profit of corn is "break-even" at best - and according to some studies there is a substantial net energy loss.

And I also understand that corn is a "fertilizer-intensive" crop. It takes one hell of lot more out of the soil than it returns - and the fertilizer used is substantially increasing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oh yeah - one more thing - again, when all factors are taken into consideration, I understand that there is actually a net INCREASE in CO2 production - as in greenhouse gas - as a result of growing corn for ethanol.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23695288/
http://healthandenergy.com/ethanol.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 132436.htm
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/ ... nteractive

It makes absolutely no sense to me to have to pay taxes for price supports for corn ethanol farmers so that I can pay more for food, and the farmers can further pollute the ocean and further increase CO2 production. It appears that this boondoggle only gives the impression of helping us achieve energy independence; but in fact (because of the built-in energy cost) it achieves nothing in that regard.

Bill Flint

Skipjack
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Post by Skipjack »

I was not very precise earlier, I appologize. I should have added that there is some upcoming(!) technology that might improve the picture for biofuels a bit. Scientists have been experimenting with genetically modified plants and microorganisms, mostly algae that might(!) provide biofuels from much less land (or actually water) than corn or sugar cane. There are still problems with those though, among others the green movement not being particularily fond of genetically engineered organisms (which is entirely stupid, but thats a topic on its own).

Chuck Connors
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu Aug 28, 2008 11:23 pm

Post by Chuck Connors »

classicpenny,

I'm not arguing the government subsidy. I'm not an advocate for Biofuel production either....only a farmer that sees a different perspective on why food costs are the way they are. I would argue again that the Political and Enviromental aspects of farming for Biofuel would be much different IF (and only IF) it had a significant impact on America's energy independence. The MSNBC article below mentions that Technology may still be a positive factor for Biofuels in the US....which I also previously mentioned.

I believe that much of the Corn and Ethanol hoopla in relation to food prices is politically tainted. Food prices are up across the board on nearly ALL food commodities (corn is just one of many). Would you argue that this is because of corn prices alone? I would not. I would direct the main cause to higher energy costs (namely oil).

I would ask you to step in the farmer's shoes for a minute. If given the opportunity to farm for profit...or farm for surplus (and no profit)...which would you choose? Would it matter if there is a subsidy or not? It is hard to blame farmers for making the choice to make a profit. I would not call this greed and recklessness, but common sense.

Most farmers are stewards for the land they farm....watching crops, water usage, soil content, erosion, applications, rotation, etc. Just remember they are also business people too.

djolds1
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Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:03 am

Post by djolds1 »

Skipjack wrote:If the world population keeps exploding like this, we will soon need any available farmland anyway.
The "Population Explosion" is an old trope and overplayed. Population growth rates are already dropping worldwide, and world population should max at 8-9 billion c.2040 or so and then go into decline.

A shame. I always wanted to turn the Earth into Coruscant. :D

Duane
Vae Victis

Torulf2
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Post by Torulf2 »

Economic development makes population growth to decline. So the polywell dos not lead to a Coruscant.
Interesting statistics about development, health, population and more can be find at the gapminder. A world statistics visualisation program owned by Google.
http://www.gapminder.org/

Maui
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Location: Madison, WI

Post by Maui »

Torulf2 wrote:Interesting statistics about development, health, population and more can be find at the gapminder. A world statistics visualisation program owned by Google.
http://www.gapminder.org/
This is the coolest thing I have ever seen (or that I've seen this month, anyway). Thanks!

olivier
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Location: Cherbourg, France

Post by olivier »

Some more about breeders and reprocessing...
Though it makes sense to extract all the energy we can from the actinides by the means of breeeders, it is not the definite answer to the waste problem. At the end of the day, you get:
  • -plenty of energy (thousands of years) :)
    -plenty of waste, fission products (split atoms following a random distribution) instead of actinides. :(
At least, compared to US open-cycle LWRs, the ratio of the energy produced to the mass of waste is vastly improved, while the residual waste is more active and has a shorter half-life. Hence Yucca Mountain.

jmc
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by jmc »

Maui wrote: The widely quoted value is 20% cap for wind power. Even the DOE uses that figure. I'd be willing to read arguments to the contrary, but I think "a few percent" is really low-balling it.

Also, if fuel cells or other markets for hydrogen develop, hydrogen production could be good way to utilize wind power during times of high generation and lessen the fluctuation of avaliable power on the grid.
What do you mean by 20% cap for windpower? If you mean the maximum power generation when they are all running a full throttle, I can believe you. If you mean wind energy supplying 20% of our electricity on average over the year I would be more skeptical. A typical wind turbine produces between a third and a quarter of its maximum rated power when averaged over the year.

This means with a capacity factor of 1/3 to supply 20% of our electrical energy, at any given time between 0 and 60% of the entire US demand would come from wind in a randomly fluctuation way. Dealing with that is no mean feat. If you mean the maximum power supplied by the wind is 20% of US electricity demand, I can believe that but that implies the average contribution of wind power over the year would be 5-6%.

The only basis for claiming wind can supply 20% of our electrical energy needs, that I can think of would be that 20% of Denmarks power is supplied by the wind. Such a comparisson would be false however, since they are not a closed system and export their fluctuations to Norway, Sweden and Germany. Norway is 99% Hydroelectric, when the wind is blowing in Denmark they close their sluices and import electricity from Denmark, when the wind stops they open they sluices an export energy to Denmark. Germany does this with coal (they have the highest CO2 emmission per capita in Europe), Germany also has wind, less then Denmark, but still enough to cause troublesome fluctuations. However they use French nuclear power to buffer their electricity supply if the wind stops blowing. Denmark didn't even pay for connecting themselves to Germany and Norway, the high power capacity connection is the result of Germany, Norway and Sweden wishing to connect to each other.

Whose going to buffer the US.?

That's the near term question. Regarding storage of energy, it might work, but its certainly not trivial and I'm sick of wind advocates poo-pooing the storage issue as a minor triviality. We have to work on in now and prove it can be scale up before playing Russian Roulette with the world electricity grid.

IntLibber
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Re: News thread political tangent

Post by IntLibber »

Chuck Connors wrote:
IntLibber wrote: d) biofuel: actually causes MORE harm to the environment than drilling for oil, a LOT more. increases soil erosion, nitrate pollution in rivers, deforestation, increases food prices resulting in rising poverty rates globally.
I hate to pop this balloon, but the negative comments on biofuels make little sense. Are you arguing that farming should only be used for food production alone? Please explain to us farmers why we would not want to farm for biofuels (as well as for food) if the money is decent? Is it your job...or the governments to decide what (or why) someone decides to farm?
I'm as free market as they come, but you cant tell me that you just woke up one day and decide to plant for biofuels. The only reason there is a market is cause government has intervened in the market in many ways. I'd rather my tax dollars didn't contribute to such false expectations and junk science.

I’ve never farmed for biofuels, but if there was the opportunity…would I do it? Sure, if the money was good. I have not understood the argument that farming for biofuels has increased food prices- In my mind this is a myth. If (like Brazil) America was able to show that biofuel production had a significant impact on energy independence and therefore oil prices…would we be having this argument? I think not. Technology may still save the day here (switchgrass, cellulosic ethanol, etc).
Biofuel expansion HAS increased food prices measurably. A business partner of mine in Second Life actually makes his real money building biofuel plants, and he KNOWS all these facts are true: both wrt food prices and the environmental impact.

Even if you use cellulosic processes there are significant environmental tradeoffs: switchgrass: negative impact on wildlife in the midwest 'pothole' habitats and on the prairies. Timber: increased logging means all the negative stuff with logging: increased erosion, negative impact on trout and salmon fisheries, etc etc.

The reason for higher food prices is:
1) higher energy costs
2) America returning to the dinner table with staple goods because of higher energy costs. This has increased demand and the prices of said goods to go with it.
Higher energy costs, yes, and you know that requirements to add alcohol to gasoline as a smog control measure, because the prior additive was removed from the market due to its negative effects, while congress bars the importation of brazillian alcohol without a 100% tarriff, means the additive is in high demand and low supply

It is for these reasons people are paying a higher price...not because of the choice farmers made with growing a crop of corn.

On many of your other arguments I cannot disagree, except on solar- I would have to go with Maui on this one. Being pro-nuke isn’t necessarily popular, but aside from ‘Polywell’ :wink: it should be at the forefront of any drive for energy independence.

ANY energy investment has to have a certain ROI given a certain prime rate. The higher the prime rate, the shorter the ROI period needs to be. Typically 2 years is an acceptable avg. Solar tends toward an ROI of about 10-12 years, which is very diseconomic.

IntLibber
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Post by IntLibber »

olivier wrote:Some more about breeders and reprocessing...
Though it makes sense to extract all the energy we can from the actinides by the means of breeeders, it is not the definite answer to the waste problem. At the end of the day, you get:
  • -plenty of energy (thousands of years) :)
    -plenty of waste, fission products (split atoms following a random distribution) instead of actinides. :(
At least, compared to US open-cycle LWRs, the ratio of the energy produced to the mass of waste is vastly improved, while the residual waste is more active and has a shorter half-life. Hence Yucca Mountain.
Yes, the general public (and the democrats) cant seem to grasp the fact that the longer the half life, the lower the radioactivity level, and vice versa. Long half lives at low radioactivity are safer on average but more likely to wind up leaving waste in the laps of who knows what possible primitives in a post-apocalyptic world. A pile of shorter half life waste is much more radioactive and dangerous, but will only be dangerous for a few hundred to a few thousand years at most. It also tends to be a much smaller pile than the pile of low level waste you get with LWR.

olivier
Posts: 155
Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 5:21 pm
Location: Cherbourg, France

Post by olivier »

Btw is it advised to say that something is complex and nuanced, in times when a powerful and simplistic 30-second message seems to be the only way to capture attention? :?

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